BERLIN (AP) — Senior officials in Germany expressed shock Tuesday over the killing of a young gas station clerk who was shot dead at the weekend by a man opposed to the country’s pandemic restrictions.
A 49-year-old German was arrested in the fatal shooting of the clerk Saturday in the western town of Idar-Oberstein. The suspect is being held on suspicion of murder.
Authorities said the man told officers he acted “out of anger” after being refused service by the clerk for not wearing a mask while trying to buy beer at the gas station.
“He further stated during interrogation that he rejected the measures against the coronavirus,” the Trier police department said in a statement.
Authorities didn’t immediately say whether the suspect was associated with that movement, which has come under increasing scrutiny from Germany’s security services following a series of large antigovernment protests, some of which turned violent.
But a Twitter account linked to the suspect followed several prominent German far-right politicians and publicists, including senior members of the Alternative for Germany party.
Posts from the account, which was last used in October 2019, reflect a dislike for immigrants, climate activists and the government
Prosecutors told Germany’s dpa news agency that the suspect wasn’t previously known to police and that he wasn’t legally entitled to possess the firearm found at his house.
Paul Ziemiak, the general secretary of Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic Union party, called the clerk’s slaying “incomprehensible.”
“A young man was virtually executed because he pointed out the mask requirement,” Ziemiak said on Twitter. “An inconceivable level of radicalization!”
The Christian Democrats have come under criticism for a campaign video showing their candidate, Armin Laschet, giving a Querdenken activist the microphone during a campaign event.
The head of the domestic intelligence agency in the eastern state of Thuringia, Stephan Kramer, told Germany’s RND media group that the killing was “no surprise to me in view of the steady escalation in recent weeks.”
Kramer said his office had warned of the growing potential for violence from extremists.
“It’s regrettable that someone always has to die before the risk is taken seriously,” he was quoted as saying.
Facebook last week removed almost 150 accounts and pages linked to the Querdenken movement under a new policy focused on groups that spread misinformation or incite violence but which didn’t fit into the platform’s existing categories of bad actors.